Celtic Guitar Arrangement – Father Kellys

For the next few blog posts i want to look at arranging the traditional reel, Father Kellys.  Its a tune i play on flute, and worked it up for guitar a little while ago.  It fits well in the Orkney tuning, and hopefully some folks who are interested in arranging reels might get something out of it.

When arranging traditional tunes i like to use the following steps.

1.  Get the tune firmly in your head.  Listen to it over and over, to the point where you can hear it in your minds ear or lilt it on demand. Ideally listen to it on a traditional instrument for that idiom, in this case fiddle, flute, pipes, whistle, accordian, tenor banjo, etc. 
2.  Learn the melody on guitar.  Be able to play it from memory.  Don’t worry about adding harmony or anything yet, just get the melody firmly under your fingers so when you start to think about adding a bass line or harmony, you are not forgetting where the melody is.
3. Come up with a basic bass line at first that fits the melody.  This will usually be based around obvious chords.  In this case, its G, C, and D

I’ve recorded myself playing it on flute so you can hear how it might sound traditionally.  Below that is a pdf of the melody in notation and TAB.  I have tried to notate it as i play it on flute, but there may be a slight difference.  Such is folk music.  As far as the tab i just laid the melody out on guitar, not taking into account different positions on the neck.  More on that later.

Father Kelly’s flute

Melody PDF

Next i have arranged the melody a bit on guitar, adding some simple bass notes that represent the chords i might play.  This is super simple, and i have not really taken into account yet the best place to the melody on the neck so it flows and is not so stacatto.  Except where the few slurs are indicated each note is picked, my main rule of thumb is not to use the same finger on the right hand consecutively.

Father Kellys Basic Arrangement

Basic Arrangement MP3

As you can hear, the basic arrangement is pretty rough sounding, not at all flowing as it might sound on the fiddle or flute. 

So check those out, perhaps try to improve it some on your own, and then next week i will post part 2, where we will flesh out the arrangement a bit more.


Anton Emery



Leave a Reply